GRAVETTE — Nicole Jowers, Secretary of the Greater Gravette Chamber of Commerce, was the guest speaker for the regular meeting of the Gravette Lions Club on Tuesday, April 19.
Jowers and her family moved to Gravette from Louisiana in 2019 after living in the same community their entire lives. They came to Arkansas every summer to canoe and camp, she said, and decided they liked the area enough to move.
Her husband had worked 28 years for the largest international glass manufacturer, making food grade bottles. Nicole has worked in long term care, geriatrics and palliative care. She was immediately impressed with how the community members welcomed the family and made her feel at home. His son is very active in 4-H, having served as president of the Gravette Gleamers, 4-H ambassador and candidate for state office. Her daughter plays on a local softball team as well as travel teams.
Jowers told Lions Club members that “Gravette will grow whether we like it or not” and stressed that community members need to have a vision and goals for the future in order to responsibly manage that growth.
“You have a gem here,” she said of the town. “Don’t get so caught up in clinging to the past that you can’t grow, but don’t let newcomers force unwanted, irresponsible growth. People move here because they like what they see, but a lot don’t know how to be part of it,” she said.
Jowers said she thinks Gravette represents small towns in the United States and loves that kids can play on Main Street with little supervision and parents don’t have to worry. She likes to see the kids riding around town on their bikes and enjoys going to ball games. She said she would rather see more mom-and-pop stores come to town than a big chain restaurant.
“I feel more at home here after three years than I expected. I’m happy. It feels good to be part of the community,” Jowers said. “The Gravette special,” she said, describing herself as a transplant who had gone home.
She urged those present not to let the downtown core die.
“We don’t want buildings on Main Street standing empty,” she said, expressing her joy that the new mural on a building on Main Street is drawing attention downtown.
Jowers also praised the Lions Club for all the community service work it does and said voluntary organizations never get all the credit.
She also talked a bit about the new restaurant, Lagniappe, a Cajun restaurant and boutique that her family just opened on Main Street. She said the word lagniappe means “something a little more or unexpected”. She said a Louisiana-style restaurant is definitely something unexpected for Gravette Main Street. Current hours of operation are 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., but opening hours are expected to expand soon to include lunchtime.
After club president Linda Damron called the meeting to order, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and an invocation from Melissa Williams opened the meeting. Sue Rice introduced the tail tornado, asking those present to name the five countries that do not have airports.
Minutes of the April 5 meeting were approved and Treasurer Jeff Davis delivered the Treasurer’s Report. He also submitted a report showing that the club had served 1,131 people with 61 service activities so far this club year. 240 volunteer hours were logged and $180 was donated to community projects. He passed around a tally sheet and urged members to log their volunteer hours.
President Damron reported that Reese Long, the club’s local winner of the annual Peace Poster Contest, won second place in the district and received a check for $50. Jeff will contact the school superintendent to arrange a time to present the award at an upcoming school board meeting. Randy Cannon and Davis continue to work on establishing a branch club at Rogers.
Damron and Davis have almost completed the literacy program training, only one session left and will soon be available for student tutors. There will soon be a time for an induction ceremony for new member Jay Oliphant.
Lions Club meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 12:30 p.m. at the Billy V. Hall Senior Activity Center. The next regular meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 3. Potential members and guests are always welcome.